Cover Image: The Parisian

The Parisian

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Member Reviews

A fascinating book. A history of the Middle East between the world wars. 
I did find the frequent use of Midhat’s native tongue, and other languages, a bit difficult; initially I translated them with google, then after a while gave up - surely if it was important to the story, it’s not necessary? 
It was a fair depiction of the time, and very interesting to learn more about the ‘other side’ as it were.
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The Parisian is an wonderful novel beginning in WWI, a favourite historical period. Set in Paris it documents rising Nationalism and the French and British occupation, The historical and political facts are woven into the story of Midhat who has studied medicine in Istanbul. In France he meets the person who become the focus of his love, but he moves to Paris after a disagreement where he becomes part of cultured society. Even so, he cannot forget his first love. A gripping novel about love in the time of war, its heartbreaking sorrows and undying love.
Recommended
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The Parisian is an intriguing book, an epic history that is evocative A.S. Byatt in its scope and in its depth of character. Though captivating at the outset I found that it lagged a little in the centre though recovered at the close becoming by turns mesmerising and pacy. A delicate and insightful portrayal of a turbulent period,
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This book has been on my TBR list for quite some time, I anticipated that it might be quite intense and so had been leaving it for a time when I could focus on it.

This is the debut novel from Isabella Hammad and follows a young Palestinian man called Midhat, who leaves home to travel to France to study medicine. He arrives in Montpellier and stays with a host family. This part of the story I really enjoyed, the tension builds, the characterisation is excellent and there was an unfolding romance and some family history that hooked me.

However, in the next part, I began to get a bit lost as there are so many interweaving layers, I found it hard to focus. I am, admittedly, pretty uneducated on the politics in the Middle East during WW1 and the onset of WW2 which I admit would not have helped me here, but there are just so many characters (or the same character referred to with a different term) that I began to lose track. 

This is a beautifully written book by a clearly, very talented author. It was my own knowledge and awareness that likely caused this to just be 3 stars. If you like historical fiction and are interested in the development of Middle Eastern politics, you will thoroughly enjoy this I'm sure.

Thank you to @netgalley for the opportunity to review

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A beautifully written well-crafted novel. Full of detail, an xcellent historical fiction of the period from circa 1910-present. Fascinating and a must-read.
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I have always wanted to read about WW1 from Palestine’s viewpoint and I think this book served this purpose admirably.  I also admire the book for the strong debut that it is BUT unfortunately think that the story was too long to hold my attention 100%
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This is exactly the sort of book I was looking for. I love historical fiction, especially when it has a relatable, contemporary message. It's a heartwrenching read, but exotic and fascinating. I highly recommend it.
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Well written novel with a lot of reasearch behind the story. It has the feeling of the WWII and the times after the war. I loved every single page of the book.
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Wasn't able to read and review book before it was removed form my e-reader


Midhat Kamal navigates his way across a fractured world, from the shifting politics of the Middle East to the dinner tables of Montpellier and a newly tumultuous Paris. He discovers that everything is fragile: love turns to loss, friends become enemies and everyone is looking for a place to belong.

Isabella Hammad delicately untangles the politics and personal tragedies of a turbulent era – the Palestinian struggle for independence, the strife of the early twentieth century and the looming shadow of the Second World War. An intensely human story amidst a global conflict, The Parisian is historical fiction with a remarkable contemporary voice.
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Sometimes you see a beautiful cover but the story doesn't match. This was wonderful inside and out. Wonderful wealth of characters, beautiful writing and a plot to match. Hammad has written a true gem of a story.
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Wonderful book! Well crafted, terrific atmospheres and strong plot. A few flaws that bothered me while reading; a little meandering at times and slow, as well as some words that weren't translated that meant I spent time looking them up, however good learning experience, and characters a little confusing at times. Overall would highly recommend.
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At 576 pages and the amount of detail in this historical book related to Palestine is not for the faint hearted. I have picked it up then put it down on several occasions only to be drawn back into a story that demands to be read yet envelopes the reader in a surfeit of detail to the point of becoming a distraction. The inclusion of Arabic and French phrases also disrupt immersion in the story. It goes without saying this is a story that should be read and an incredible debut novel by Isabella Hammad. The protagonist Midhat Kamal is a hugely interesting three dimensional character that the reader warms too, and is drawn into a need to  understand his journey through life's events from onset of novel when he moves to France to study medicine and falls in love. However the reading experience could and would have become  enhanced if condensed into a more tightly written plot and better flow with less weight given to overlong detail and distractions.
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In The Parisian, although a work of fiction, we have a sensitive and elegantly written novel that shines a light on the Palestinian question in the first half of the 20th century. Our hero, Midhat Kamal is sent to France, from Nablus, to train as a doctor. Love distracts him and so he opts to abandon his medical course and run away to Paris where he studies philosophy and socialises with free-thinking Syrian emigres . After  a couple of years he returns to Nablus determined to become a success in his father's business. But foreign domination of Palestine by the British, the Germans and the Italians changes everything, except his love for Nablus. How he adapts his life around these changes and how he is perceived by his friends and family forms the body of this novel. Tragedy, lost love, mental illness and the overthrow of the traditional way of life in Nablus threaten to destroy Midhat, but, and perhaps due to the education he received in France, he finds the mental strength and reasoning to survive. An excellent and maturely conceived first novel.
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I can tell why everyone is talking about this!  It is intelligent, powerful, and well written.  I can't wait to see what Hammad comes up with next.
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Midhat Kamal arrives in Montpellier in 1914 to study at the University to become a doctor. He falls in love with his University professor landlords daughter, Jeanette, but he becomes disillusioned with the family, and leaves to continue studying in Paris. He lives here during the war, and becomes friends with other Arabic men during a tumultuous time in the Middle East. 

When Midhat returns home to Nablus, he is expected to conform to his fathers wishes, marry a woman from a good Muslim family, and work for the family business. He is thereafter known as The Parisian to those who don’t really know him, because of his style of dress and his outlook on life. 

Politics soon begin to affect every part of his life, as the colonial powers of Britain and France flex their muscles. Their unwillingness to learn histories and the way people actually want to live cause untold problems, which actually we still see the consequences of today. 

I can see that some may struggle with the French and Arabic peppered through the dialogue (I don’t speak Arabic), but I do think it was used in such a way that I didn’t lose track of what was happening, and it lent some credibility to the story. Midhat slips in french words to his speech when something surprises him, or he feels strongly about something. His second language has become a part of him. Endearments are usually in Arabic as well (it took a little while for me to realise what they were, and there are other words used that aren’t just endearments, I’m sure!). 

This is a beautifully told story. It’s hard to read in places - history isn’t always very pretty. But I think it’s important to learn about the past in order to understand the present and hopefully learn from past mistakes. 

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy of this book to read and honestly review.
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Through a young’s man personal journey from Nablus in Palestine (nowadays in northern West bank) to Paris, during World War I to his return in Palestine at the dawn of its battle for independence, Isabella Hammad illuminates an important period of Palestinian history.

The Parisian starts with Midhat’s arrival in France, to study medicine at Monpellier in South France. He is falling in love with a woman in France and France in general, and when he goes back to Nablus at the end of the war, the Ottoman Empire has been defeated, the British and the French have defined future spheres of control in the Middle East and the Arabs are starting to fight for their independence. While his country convulses, Midhat undergoes his own personal fight, contending with the demands of his inner life influenced by his life in France and the obligations to his family and his community at that period of rapture.

In 2017 there was the one-hundred-year anniversary of the Balfour Declation, a public statement issued by the British government where they committed to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. In the declaration there is a clause that suggests that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”

It’s clearly didn’t work out that way and what we are seeing today is a continuation of the events that happened during the period covered in the novel. The Palestinians are still fighting for their independence and they still haven’t achieved their political and civil rights. Both Israelis and Palestinians are haunted by their history.

The Parisian is an ambitious, and thought-provoking debut novel. It’s a historical epic that captures a man’s search for identity and love and a nation’s dream and fight for independence.
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I had heard really good things about this book but unfortunately I just couldn't get on with it. I started out really enjoying it and then as the novel progresses and Midhat leaves the home of Jeanette and the professor and travels to Paris, I found the increase in political discussion as well as the repeated sections in French and Arabic too much for me and I reluctantly gave up on it,
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A complex story encapsulating a time of upheaval which has consequences even now. Told through the eyes of an idealistic dreamer in his early travels from Palestine to France as events are at a critical point in Europe. Politics or the fate of the world does not seem to have a place in the consciousness of this naive young man at this time in his life.
 He begins a journey of self discovery as he commences his medical studies in Montpelier. Events occur which damage his newly burgeoning love and trust and launches him in a different direction. Hence he delves into a more free and decadent way of life sampling everything Paris at the time has to offer. Eventually he decides to return home but the rumblings of a turbulent time finds some things have changed during his absence. His fortunes now changed by his fathers demise and the future fate of his country.
The author reflects the times well and the characters are well defined. I found this to be beautifully written with an excellent grasp of the world in the time period concerned. Excellent descriptive narrative and believable characters.
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I'm always a little put off when a story starts with a list of characters. It's not a play! While I can see that keeping the family groups straight is needed, a list is meaningless until I start getting into the story. So, I skipped past and started reading chapter one. 

The protagonist is Palestinian and is on a ship to Marseille. The mixing of Middle Eastern and French culture becomes quickly apparent. I found the subject interesting and the main character sympathetic, but the writing style was tedious and I often found my attention wandering off.

Since I don't speak French or Arabic, a lot of the lines were over my head. I'm also not that familiar with the history involved and I didn't follow it as well as I needed to, to keep up.

Overall I think there were too many characters and not enough context to put the reader into the period.
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I really wanted to enjoy this book and for a short time, I really did. However, the further I got into the story, the less interest I had as there was just something off about the writing style for me. It felt a lot like the author was telling rather than showing and throwing facts and information at the reader and it didn't feel natural to me. After reading positive reviews of this book, perhaps I've missed the mark somewhere and this is clearly not the right story for me. I will say that the premise is very interesting and Midhat is a compelling protagonist, but this was not enough for me to really love the book.
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